Tag Archives: Food

So You Want To Be A MasterChef : Part Deux

Some time ago, Superfoodie Achala Srivatsa had shared some mouthwatering tips for ordinary morsels mortals like you and me craving to make it big in the world of Reality TV Cooking Shows. That post had stood out on this boring blog because of its delicious wit and wholesome advice, much the same way a three-tiered cake stands out at a bland wedding. So, it was quite expected that her pointers were going to attract attention, stir the pot, so to speak. It did. The most important consequence being this companion piece, written by Achala’s and my dear friend Adam Murphy, that garnishes the original post (which can be found here) with some new ingredients just as essential for success in the chef-eat-chef world of competitive cooking.

Kindly don’t forget to thank Adam for this recipe in the Comments section below. He already says ‘You’re Welcome!’

Over to Adam. Bon Apetit! 


The winner of MasterChef Namibia. She described her winning recipe as a delectable melange of Champignon Bordelaise and Pea Soup.

The winner of MasterChef Namibia. She described her winning recipe as a delectable melange of Champignon Bordelaise and Pea Soup.

Inspired by Achala’s wonderful piece about MasterChef, I humbly offer up a complementary “Glossary for Success” for those who may now be contemplating lining up for the next MasterChef auditions.

These are the secret “safety words” of the culinary fraternity that can slide even the most amateur of home cooks past the judges, time and time and again. Sprinkled lightly, these words are your express pass deep into the final rounds of televised competition.

  1. “Deconstructed” (adj.): use liberally to cover up the fact that you either: a) didn’t have time; or, b) didn’t collect the right ingredients; or, c) burnt a critical component required, to put the dish together properly.
  2. “-inspired” (suffix): code word for “I didn’t care much for your actual challenge, so I made what I wanted to from the start, but included one ingredient of the thing you actually wanted me to make”. Example: “Please enjoy my key-lime-pie-inspired crab cakes.”
  3. “Riff” (noun): charming colloquial term used to pass off the thing that you thought you were asked to make, until you saw what everyone else was doing and realised that you had no idea from the start. Example: “This is my ‘riff’ on Croque Madame, replacing the ham with crocodile meat, and serving it as more of a salad than a toasted sandwich. I call it ‘Croc Madame’. Enjoy.”
  4. “Elevated” (verb, p.t.): pretentiously elaborate way to say you added something that has no place ever being in that dish. Best used when specifying the unnecessarily-exotic origin of said ingredient. Example: “I elevated my chicken risotto by shaving a few slivers of pickled Bolivian cucumber on top. Please enjoy.”
  5. “Re-fire” (verb): a far less embarrassing – and decidedly more “chefy” way to say, “I #%&@ed up and am starting over”. Example: “I’m re-firing that plain white toast right now, Chef.”
  6. “Ensalata de…” (prefix): use with straight face instead of just admitting that the best thing you could think of was another bloody boring salad. Example: “This is my Ensalata de Salmon. Enjoy.”
  7. “Classic” (adj.): use to cover up the fact that you haven’t a drop of creative talent in your body, so just made the recipe exactly as expected. See also, “traditional”.
  8. “Rustic” (adj.): sloppily put together or unprofessional looking – perhaps still served in the cooking vessel because you ran out of time for plating. See also, “down-to-earth”.
  9. “Accompanied by…” (adj.): subtle note to the judges that your actual dish is pretty gosh-darn horrible so they should focus on the thing you put beside it. Best used if the accompanying item is an alcoholic beverage of some type. The worse your main dish tastes, the boozier the cocktail should be.

With this new vocabulary and Achala’s power tips, you’re well on your way to being the next MasterChef. Culinary talent optional.

Valentine’s Day, Or As Some Call It – Thursday

valentines_day_comment_graphic_13With feral disregard to Valentine’s Day propriety that prohibited them from being seen in public, five comprehensively single people, including moi, decided to meet up for dinner. And not just dinner at any place, we boldly decided to hit Ego’s, the Italian restaurant in South Delhi that is immensely popular among those of a romantic persuasion out to enjoy good food and great music with their match chosen by The One Himself. It was perhaps a symbolic choice for us considering that we had enough of it of our own (I mean Ego or Pride or Shamelessness, call it what you may) to not want to hide under our beds on a day when Non-Singles so heartlessly paraded their Facebook status.

One look at the abject appearance of our fivesome and the nimble-footed usher hurriedly chose for us a table situated in the remotest boondocks of the restaurant. Clearly, where we thought fashionably torn jeans, hawaii chappals, black t-shirt with haldi stains, customized unkempt hair, a two-day stubble etc. etc. were all motifs of cool hipsterishness, our man saw them no more than signs of date-less reality. Yes, we were confined to the ‘table on the far side’ – the one by the popcorn machine, and so close to the kitchen that one could smell the artificial pink color being used to make the cake frosting inside. When my friend Sanjiv twirled his finger at the host of untaken tables strewn all over more desirable real estate, his quizzical gesture was shot down with a firm ‘They are all reserved, Sir’. No doubt reserved for happier faces that would oh so seamlessly blend in amidst red ribbons and roses pockmarking every nook and cranny of the place today.

Chris de Burg’s “Lady In Red” spat out of the Bose sound system. Typical, I thought.

“It’s not so bad,” I said half-heartedly, as we were all seated at our outpost.

“Well, at least it’s a good view of the whole place,” Asha consoled herself.

“And no one can see us. I need some JD,” muttered Ravi.

Drinks were ordered at warp speed and were served just as promptly. Vodka, mojito, whisky and such like.

A young couple entered the restaurant and was quickly accorded prime seating. They seemed to have barely cracked puberty.

“How can Chintu and Munni even afford a place like this with their pocket money?” asked Goldie as she pointed at the newcomers with her eyes and used her hands instead to pick up the vodka glass.

“Maybe he saved all year to give his girlfriend a special VD present,” I offered intelligently.

“Must you call it VD?” said Goldie, making a face.

All of us sniggered at the VD joke, hardly justifying our chronological ages.

“But seriously, how? I bet you, Munni put her Barbie to bed before coming here,” Goldie pestered with her pertinent financial cross-examination.

“Parents are only too happy to see their kids go out and have a good time. Maybe this treat was a reward for them passing their Social Studies exam,” said Sanjiv trying to read the menu card by holding it three feet from his face. “Hey, why have they reduced the font size on this bloody thing? And why are the lights so dim?”

Arrey, give it to Ravi, let him order. You just make sure that you check-in all of us on Facebook!” I said, thus ending Sanjiv’s unsuccessful tryst to hold the menu right side up sans reading glasses. (Ravi, incidentally, is 28 dog-years younger than all of us)

“Should I order ribs?” Ravi suggested. The three vegetarians at the table looked at him glumly.

“Don’t tell me they are going to serve them drinks! They are what, twelve? Fourteen, tops!” wailed Goldie observing from her vantage point.

“Let them be happy. Chocolates, roses and tea are the new combination on Valentine’s Day,” Asha said authoritatively. “And by tea, I mean the one from Long Island that comes in a tall glass!”

“Amen, Sister!” said Goldie, and the ladies sipped copiously from their glasses.

Food was ultimately sorted. It was decided to “just order lots of appetizers”, which is infinitesimally easy to manage, though it also ensures that only microscopic portions of the “awesome” stuff eventually end up getting passed around.

A young couple walked in with their small kid. The kid was five, perhaps ten – we were unlettered in matters of kid’s ages. Or kids, generally speaking.

“Who brings kids to their romantic dinner? Fools!” said I categorically.

“My friend just moved to Bangalore. He is having trouble getting his kid admitted to school,” Ravi said.

“Terrible,” said Sanjiv munching his jacket potato with oodles of butter, cheese and chives.

“Why? I think it is great!” said Asha as she looked at Sanjiv suspiciously. Ravi looked up from his buffalo wings quizzically.

“Oh, I meant the whole school thing – terrible. The potatoes – YUM!”

“My colleague at work has invited me to his daughter’s happy budday this Saturday”, I said. “What should I take as a gift?”

That set off a cackle of laughter at the table. Despite choked food pipes, loud coughing and misty eyes, the other four still managed to mock at my predicament.

“Do get us all return gifts. UNCLE!” managed Sanjiv through more hysterical laughter.

“Bastards!” I said.

The food and drink ravage-fest continued. Presently, the unfriendly usher came by our table again. He enquired pointlessly if we were enjoying our evening, to which we nodded politely.

“I have a request,” he added, this time a trifle sheepishly.

“What is it?” asked Ravi.

“We start our Valentine’s Day Special in an hour. This will become a couples-only restaurant after that. Couples Only. No single people. Not even in groups.”

“Yes, yes, we know,” said Sanjiv gruffly.

“I just thought I should remind you all. Thanks for understanding,” the usher added as he flashed a creepy smile and begged our leave.

“Asshole,” I said once we were safely out of his hearing range. Everyone concurred.

“I am not coming out on Valentine’s Day. Ever again,” said Goldie, as she gulped the last of her vodka.

Asha looked at her and smiled.

“Let it be, dear. One last round? Happy Hour doesn’t end until 6.30. We can still be out of here by 7 before the crowds come in.”


To be clear, I shall remain tightlipped on which parts of this story are true and which not! But, do know that all the characters in this story are absolutely real – these are my close friends, who also happen to be happily single. Also typical are their reactions!

And please don’t get angry at the management of Ego’s! It’s an awesome restaurant in New Friends Colony in Delhi…fun, lively, good food – you should definitely visit!


Deride Without Prejudice

In the past year, I have come across but just a handful of blogs that are aimed at readers with discerning taste. Among the best of those is Subho’s Jejune Diet (SJD, for short), managed by the extremely well-versed Subhorup Dasgupta. His choice of topic is always compelling, his writing style articulate, and his narration captivating. So imagine my delight (and surprise) when he asked me to do a guest post for him, despite the potty mouth that I am!

I hope that with this piece, I have done justice to what his cultivated audience expects to read at SJD. I must say, I had a blast writing this post. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it. Thanks, Subho, for the opportunity!



Hundreds of years ago, a plain Jane English writer called Jane Austin wrote an epochal novel called ‘Pride and Prejudice’. Quite miraculous that she would achieve that, for, the woman had heard nothing of Blogging in her day. Despite that, how she procured the clarity of thought, the grasp of storytelling technique, and dry wit and humour, attributes that all Indian Bloggers are naturally blessed with the first time they hold aloft a pen, we shall never know.

Anyway, my research has shown that Miss Austin may not have found it that facile to produce her seminal work, as proven by the multiple versions of Chapter 47 that she wrote longhand, one of which I have reproduced here. Moreover, I found it quite interesting that this particular trashed piece alludes to a certain beverage that Subhorup has great affinity to – making this a remarkably serendipitous find! Read on to find out more.

I wish Miss Austin had retained this passage in the book instead of the inferior one that she ultimately went with. Had her writing been of the Blogosphere born, that lapse of judgment would have never occurred.

Ah, well.


Read the rest at Subho’s blog using the link below. And don’t miss the glorious introduction he has given me at the top. Frankly, no kinder words have ever been expressed! I shall cherish them for a lifetime.





A Fond Farewell

Over the past year, I have made several friends in the blogging community. One of the nicest and friendliest persons I have come across is Akanksha Dureja. Several weeks ago, she asked me to write a guest post for her blog – the charming Direct Dil Se. I had been mulling over the right topic to choose for her, which was a trifle difficult task given the eclectic choice of subjects that she chooses to write on.

And then, I heard the happy-sad news – Akanksha was moving to the UK for work for a year, most likely longer. The news made me, as I am sure all her other friends too, happy because it is always nice to see your friends flourish in their careers. But sad, too, because it is never easy to part with them. My guest post for her is my way to say Au Revoir, Akanksha – until we meet again.

I know what most of you are doing now – planning your next holiday in the UK, right? After all, no more worries of booking expensive hotel accommodation or paying through your nose for pricey meals! (Oh, did I mention that Akanksha is a great cook?)


Do read my post on Direct Dil Se. My first attempt at writing a modern day fairy tale. With the hope that the reality for Akanksha will be even more joyous and eventful than the one I have described!

Akanksha Dureja : The London Diaries


See you later, Alligator!

See you later, Alligator!

Choco- Raspberry Delite Anyone?

Part-time Market Researcher but full-time Observer and Thinker Achala Srivatsa is back with this absolutely hysterical essay that will have you rolling on the floor like a, well, a rolling pin. If you are a foodie (and by that I mean you don’t entirely mind popping something solid in your mouth occasionally) you have got to read this! 


(Stolen from The Healthy Voyager website given my own lack of artistic talent))

(Stolen from The Healthy Voyager website given my own lack of artistic talent))

Practically everyone I know claims to be a foodie these days (a broad term that could mean anything from “I eat like a pig and Darshini is my  second home” to “You must try my sous vide salmon with chanterelle duxelle and a hint of wild fennel pollen” or “my rajma recipe is a closely guarded family secret”). Our home-grown NRI friends who visit for 2 weeks also call themselves foodies, which essentially means they spend 2 weeks running around to every local restaurant and immersing their being in assorted deep-fried products dipped into condiments that are off the charts on heat and ferocity. Much of those two weeks are also, not surprisingly, spent reading War and Peace in a toilet. But I digress.

India is now neck deep in cook books of an astonishing range and variety, not to mention cookery shows of every description. Do you want to make a refreshing drink to be enjoyed by the pool? Chances are someone on some channel is muddling together mint and sugar as we speak.

I discovered this the other day as I browsed at my local book store. It was truly educational and here for your benefit is a summation of the fruits of my labour.

  1. At one extreme is the new bride’s go-to guide for all things South Indian. Written by a  “Maami Rajammal” with the picture of a formidable looking woman (usually with a slight moustache) to lend authenticity. This book will tell you how to make “curds” from scratch, the recipes for 20 types of chutneys using the peel of a ridge gourd and 15 different rasams. Recipes will sternly instruct you to “ take a good amount of tamarind…” Precisely what that means is, literally, anyone’s guess.
  2. The next category I uncovered was a slew of slim paperbacks on snacks, for every occasion (Tea Time Snacks/ Pre bedtime snacks and so on). These appear to be aimed at young mothers with recipes focusing on fried thingies of various descriptions. A half-hearted attempt at amping up the health factor can be seen – “Add a cup of sprouts”. Clearly written quite hurriedly, I was charmed by one recipe that started off calling for a cup of chopped onions, later forgetting about the onions completely.
  3. Then you have a series of books that claim to offer specialized cuisines – Rajasthan, Punjab etc. Some of these seem authentic, others not so much. Call me a cynic but I look askance at “authentic” recipes that call for a cup of tomato ketchup.
  4. Cookbooks on the Woman’s Era lines – easily recognizable by the way they fiercely hang on in a limpet-like fashion to  recipes from the ‘70s – “Blancmange”, “Raspberry Delite”, “Chocolate-Pista Surprise” and so on. Bellbottoms and beehive hairdos! By the way, if you know what a blancmange is – consider yourself officially old.
  5. The ethnographic school of cookery – Where Jamie does Tuscany and works up a froth over fresh zucchini flowers, baby artichokes, dusty purple grapes exploding with sweetness blah. Do NOT read these books. Let me tell you what happens – First you identify a recipe you get all excited about – let’s say enchiladas with a chipotle sauce . Then you walk into your local supermarket and hmm, chipotle seems to be a problem. But hey, you are a creative cook, so a little improv is in order. So you shift gear – from chipotle to badgis from Central Karnataka, from fingerling potatoes to whatever’s available, from Vidalia onions to your local pyaaz and for some reason the end product tastes strangely like a dosa. Mexican food’s over-rated anyway.


Frustrated at every turn, stuffed to the gills with stuffed karelas drowning in sweet ketchup, I turned to our local Food Channel for inspiration. Here’s what I found.

  • Sanjeev Kapoor’s wooden, sickly smile every hour on the hour –  either fusing cuisines  feverishly – here cooking biryani with truffle shavings, there grating paneer on to pasta or cooking “healthy” sweets with ghee and sugar substitutes.  Is it just me or have others realized that  ever since he’s shaven that moustache off, he has this – “I could give you this recipe but then I’d have to kill you – or myself” look on his face. A bit tough for a TV chef that.
  • Wanna be Sanjeev Kapoors – with the same puppet like movements and and stilted manner of speaking always ending with “ab aapki mint coriander hing mojito lassi tayar hai
  • Indian women with strangely accented English teaching (presumably) a befuddled western audience how to make “potatoes spiced with a hint of cumin” and such like.
  • Two men checking out every dive, dhaba and Udipi hotel in search of…mediocre food? Almost every time I watch this, the two have a conversation somewhat like this…“This idli is…round and white” or “the fried dal tastes pretty much like dal that’s been fried”. My point is – so why is a 30 minute program based on a restaurant that seems to be a non-event?


So anyway, I have decided to have another crack at those enchiladas. I hear my local supermarket’s just started stocking chipotles.